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CIF boys tennis: One goal, not two

Duo on unprecedented run in doubles play

Posted: May 26, 2010 10:20 p.m.
Updated: May 27, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Valencia seniors Tyler Gottshall, left, and Ben Inchalik have been friends since their freshman year. Their strong chemistry has translated into doubles success this season.

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The sense of teamwork is often lost in a sport as driven by individual performances as tennis, but Valencia seniors Tyler Gottshall and Ben Inchalik have shelved that idea by teaming up to gain the Vikings' second-ever appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Division II round of 16 doubles tournament.

The pair of Foothill League individual standouts will enter the round of 16 on Friday at Carpinteria High School.

The two most successful individual tennis players during the Foothill season gave up their opportunity to win an individual singles title when they became a team for the first time in the Vikings' final league match against Golden Valley on April 29 and during the league finals earlier this month. What they did was forego a chance to compete in the CIF-Southern Section individual postseason tournament as singles players.

Gottshall and Inchalik each had a flawless 27-0 Foothill League record in singles play, but put aside their singles prospects to maximize their potential as a doubles team in the league individual tournament to qualify for the CIF-SS birth.

"We definitely knew we would go further in doubles and it's a lot more fun for us," Inchalik says. "It's so different from singles, because you don't get to hit all of the big flashy shots you get in doubles."

Friends since their freshman season, Gottshall and Inchalik use their cohesion off the court as a weapon on it.
"We talk about it a lot, how much it would suck to be playing with someone you don't know very well," Inchalik says. "Some of the tournament players will just randomly team up together and they don't really know each other. It's important to be able to get along with each other and it's a lot more fun too."

Gottshall sees their individual talents as a strength for their doubles team.

"I think we complement each other well," Gottshall says. "If I get into a slump, Ben will carry me out of it. One of us will always be going good and it seems to work out pretty well."

The two appeared to be the favorites to reach the Foothill League singles final, but saw the doubles route as their best opportunity to advance.

"I'm not sure how the seeding would have worked out in (the Foothill League singles tournament), but we probably would have been one and two," Gottshall says. "But we decided that we were going to go for All-CIF. Singles is a little bit lonely sometimes too, so doubles is a nice change."

An entry in the CIF-SS individual tournament was a goal from the beginning for the pair and any future success will be icing on the cake.

"It's all a bonus now," Inchalik says. "It's an honor to get to the round of 16. We're actually really proud of it and it's a great achievement."

Even though they have met their season goals, the duo is optimistic on their chances against a set of elite competitors.

"No match is easy at this level, but I think we have a good chance if we play within ourselves," Gottshall says. "I feel like we've put ourselves in a good place to win, but regardless of what happens, we've already achieved our goal. Of course we want to win, but even if we lose, we can't be mad about that."

The duo won't find out their draw until they check in at Carpinteria on Friday, so they are focusing on their own game in preparation.

"If we work our doubles game and do what we do well, that's as much preparation as we need," Gottshall says. "Scouting will help you a lot, but it's not an option in this tournament. We're used to not really knowing who we're playing."

Gottshall, who is the first player to be a part of four varsity Foothill League team tennis championships, also advanced to the CIF-SS individual doubles tournament as a sophomore, with then senior Jack Zapala.

"We had a lot of successes over the years and it's fun to look back," Gottshall says. "We put in a lot of hard work and to be rewarded for that is pretty cool. I think we left our mark and it will be more noticeable after this year."

Inchalick has been involved with the last three league titles, but saw this year as a battle to meet lofty expectations.

"It was hard because we were so expected to win," Inchalick says. "It's a lot harder than people think. In a lot of other sports you can depend on your team to help you out if you're having a bad day, but in tennis, (it's all on you)."

For Valencia head coach Annie Kellogg, the growth and camaraderie of Gottshall and Inchalik has been most rewarding.

"To see them, as seniors, push each other and help each other as students of the game is incredible," Kellogg says. "There is no rivalry there or argument on who is No. 1 and No. 2."

Although Kellogg thinks the pair is capable of making a substantial run in the tournament, she knows the competition will be the best they have faced all year.

Gottshall, the first Valencia tennis player to go straight from high school to an NCAA Division I program in Loyola Marymount, is looking forward to facing the next level of competition.

"I know it's going to be tough, but I think I'll be able to pick up my game a lot in the college environment and really improve there," Gottshall says. "I'm going to be playing much tougher people and everyone's going to be good, but the team is going to be really fun."

Inchalik is leaning toward beginning his college career at Concordia University in Irvine, a solid NAIA school, but is also considering Cal Lutheran.

Soon enough, the pair will split back into two individuals, but not before they take a shot against the state's best.

"If they're on, they've got a shot to beat anybody," Kellogg says.


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